Cape Town - Can the Golden Lions march on to Newlands and shock Western Province? That is entirely possible in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final, as an under-rated Lions could have greater hunger than the Bok-laden WP outfit.
And the Cape side normally prefer the underdog status compared to being heavy favourites, so they will have to cope with the pressure of an expectant Newlands crowd.
We point out the key areas where Province must come out on top to secure their first home final since 2001.
Keep ‘playing rugby’
For all the talk of “finals footy” when it comes to playoff games, this is one match where Province can’t afford to go into their shells and kick the ball away. Sure, a good tactical kick into the corner or a high up-and-under that comes down outside the 22 would be great variations, but a big part of WP’s success has been their ability to strike with ball-in-hand.
Don’t let that low try-scoring record fool you. Yes, WP are second-last on the tries scored list with 23 (Griquas have 17), but have scored some terrific tries in 2013. They even bagged four against the Lions two weeks ago for their first bonus-point win.
Demetri Catrakilis must kick his goals and Province will opt for the posts most of the time. But it would be a tragedy if the defending champions had to relinquish their title because they failed to make proper use of a star-studded backline boasting Jean de Villiers, Gio Aplon and Cheslin Kolbe.
They must continue with the positive attacking mindset they’ve adopted this season. As the anomaly in modern coaching-speak goes, Province have to keep “playing rugby” if they are to hold off a Lions team who are deadly on attack.
They top the try-scoring charts with 40, nine more than the Cheetahs, and WP coach Allister Coetzee is fully aware of their approach. “They just want the guys to go out and jol, and play. So therefore you didn’t see tactical kicking during their game last week,” Coetzee said.
“They love keeping the ball and taking it through phases and having a go, and they punish teams with turnover possession. So we’ve got to make sure that we are accurate.”
Make your tackles
Despite still having conceded the joint-lowest number of tries in the league phase (21, along with the Sharks) once again, WP have let in those tries through serious lapses in defence. Players have missed tackles in one-on-one situations and they have been outflanked a few times as well.
Speedsters Lionel Mapoe and Anthony Volmink will look to feed off Elton Jantjies’s playmaking skills with hard, direct running, so WP’s backline and loose trio will have to be on high alert.
The normally watertight WP defence is still largely impenetrable around the fringes, but the Lions exploited a loophole in Province’s maul defence two weeks ago. This Lions team is hard to stop when they are on a roll. WP can’t allow them back into the match through poor defence and ill-discipline.
Don’t use bench for the sake of it
Allister Coetzee said that a rugby team is in a good position if the bench players are of such quality that they become part of your tactical plan.
And you can’t blame him for thinking that, as Province have players who can make a major difference such as Schalk Burger, Nic Groom and Juan de Jongh.
But at the same time, the WP coach must be careful of making changes just for the sake of a pre-determined plan. Sometimes the flow of the game doesn’t merit a change being made. Just last week Steven Kitshoff and Pat Cilliers were in dominant form against the Sharks, so there was no need to bring on Brok Harris and Frans Malherbe.
And while it’s great to see Schalk Burger back on the field, Deon Fourie, Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen don’t deserve to come off if they are playing well.
Conversely, if a starting player is not at his best, Coetzee mustn’t be shy to take him off, even if it is one of his top stars.
TEAMS FOR NEWLANDS
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Jean de Villiers, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Bench: 16 Frans Malherbe, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Michael Rhodes, 19 Schalk Burger, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Kurt Coleman, 22 Juan de Jongh.
Lions: 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Chrysander Botha, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Andries Coetzee, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 CJ van der Linde. Bench: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Warwick Tecklen-burg, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Robert de Bruyn.
Referee: Marius Jonker. Kickoff: 2.30pm. TV: M-Net/SS1/SS HD1.